Just As You Are
by Katie Dutcher
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about honoring myself and my style.
What do I mean when I say “my style?” Some of what I’m talking about is being an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person, and some of it is simply my own unique personality. Over the past few years, I’ve become so much more aware of my own idiosyncrasies...and along the way, I’ve begun to shift my beliefs from “There’s something wrong with me. Why do I need what I need? Why can’t I be a different way?” to “The way that I am is a valid and special way to be. How can I honor my needs in order to feel better in my skin and function better in the world?”
How interesting that this lines up exactly with the core of what mindfulness is: being aware of what is, just as it is, with curiosity and compassion, rather than with judgement. If I can practice being aware of my breath as it is...can I practice being aware of myself as I am?
I recently had the treat of giving a presentation on tools for introverts to a room full of people, most of whom were very much like me, and I understood that I am not alone in this journey from self-annoyance to self-understanding. (If you’re an introvert or HSP, and you’d like to know more about that subject, you can take a look at my resource page.)
This isn’t just an issue for introverts, though. I’ve heard from others who get told that the way they are is “too much.” When we live in a world that is composed of so many unique beings, there will come times when each one of us may feel like we don’t belong or that somehow we are not ok...just because we are the way we are.
This might start as an external judgement offered by a friend, family member, or co-worker, but we take it on and can become ruled by internal expectations. We begin to police ourselves and live in a cloud of “shoulds”: Be like this, not like that. Say something! Don’t say too much! Go along with the group; if you try hard, you can fit in.
That last piece is so key: We want connection, and we’re trying to fit in, rather than belonging in the world, just as we are. In “The Gifts of Imperfection,” Brené Brown wrote: “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”
Time to Reflect
Here are some questions for reflection. If this resonates with you, why not take some time to think, meditate, and/or write about what’s coming up?
How does this (shoulds, not feeling ok, belonging) show up in your life? What would it mean for you to be fully and authentically you in your life? What would you say yes to? What would you say no to?
What gets in the way of being fully and authentically you?
How does your practice (in meditation and in your noticings in everyday life) help you to honor yourself as you are? Is your practice ever used to make you feel bad? As just one more thing to measure up to? If so, what need to shift?
Letting Kindness Flow
Guess what? Some of us may feel a little uncomfortable with the phrase “honor yourself.” It might strike us as self-centered. I really believe that when we honor ourselves and our own way of being, it opens us up to honoring others and their distinct ways of being. When we feel that we are ok, we can allow that maybe others are ok, too! Kindness isn’t a solid...it’s more like a gas: when you begin to relate to yourself with kindness, that kindness begins to pour out, to permeate the very air around you, allowing you to relate with curiosity and openness to others.